Aussie shortage in engineering has Kiwis rubbing hands

Dunedin’s Farra Engineering spots a chance for regional expansion to ignite engineering days gone by.

Reports out of Australia are that its engineering shortage is reaching critical mass and that they must reverse the current reliance on imported engineers – and that may open the door for Kiwis to snatch major contracts from under our cousins’ noses.

“When we’re wanting to deliver infrastructure, deliver innovation in this country, if we don’t have a supply of engineers coming out of our universities, we’re not going to be able to do that,” national president of Engineers Australia, Trish White has warned.

Australia has been trying for years to reverse the decline in students studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) with little success.

In fact, she says things are so dire that the country’s infrastructure plans, new space agency and defence projects are in limbo until the severe shortage is sorted out. Australia has $200 billion planned to be spent on its defence and other projects over the next decade.

Currently, more than half of the engineers working in Australia are born overseas (57%) and the workforce comprises only 13% women.

With all that in mind, and if Dunedin-based Farra Engineering’s chief executive Gareth Evans has anything to do with it, it is a good example of a local region to benefit through proactiveness and spotting an opportunity.

Mr Evans believes that Australian military contracts could deliver up to 500 jobs to the region and play an anchor role in initiating a revived wave of engineering to reinstitute the days of old that included Fisher and Paykel and Hillside Workshops; when engineering was at the region’s core.

Mr Evans is playing the protagonist in an effort to deliver the region a new engineering hub, one with a foundation of new skills, collaboration and opportunities.

He passed the message during an economic development committee meeting with the Dunedin City Council according to the Otago Daily Times. The money for such innovation would come from within the Government’s $3 billion regional development fund.

He said that there were numerous steps that needed to be taken first – including a feasibility study – and that Dunedin firms needed to come together to grab hold of the opportunity.

The OTD reported that Mr Evans believes Australia was on the path of a ‘nation-building’ exercise and that their local contractors were required to do at least half the work, but the lack of capacity presented chances for the Dunedin region.

A hundred jobs would be delivered to the region by securing $100 million worth of work in everything from manufacturing lift and other equipment to kitchen fit-outs of naval vessels, he said. ”We would only need a fraction of a percent [of the work]to make a material difference to Dunedin,” he told OTD.